The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

New building for UNC Health Care to cause increased traffic in Chapel Hill

UNC Hospitals are expanding their area and also becoming more crowded.
UNC Hospitals are expanding their area and also becoming more crowded.

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that one of the the bridges that connects to a parking deck that crosses manning drive is still in the process of being dismantled. The bridge is not longer in the process of being dismantled. The article also incorrectly stated when Manning Drive will be closed. The road was closed last weeked but will not be this weekend. 

UNC is upgrading its surgical hospital due to outdated operating rooms and a lack of sufficient space for patients and hospital staff. The surgical tower is expected to be completed in 2022, and its construction may be responsible for increased future traffic in Chapel Hill. 

Manning Drive, where most of the UNC Health Care buildings are located, was closed last weekend to allow work to be done for the new building. 

Mel Hurston, senior vice president of operations at UNC Hopstials, said the roads had to be closed for the dismantling of one of the bridges that connects to a parking deck that crosses Manning Drive and then pivots to the School of Dentistry. 

“That had to be dismantled because of the utility work in that area. That bridge will be replaced in about 12-15 months, but for now it has to be removed,” Hurston said. 

Construction will typically occur during the day. The everyday life of Chapel Hill citizens should remain the same, and Hurston said the bus routes will operate as normal.

“(Avoiding disruption takes) lots and lots of logistical planning,” said Ben Huffman, vice president and account manager at Skanska USA Building Inc. “We’ve got a whole series of logistical plans that we did with the work, so that we minimize the impact of the hospital. That’s our number one goal, is to not disrupt operations at the hospital.”

Rarely will the noise and other activities that take place at a construction site go into the evening hours, but Hurston said it is dependent on several factors. Among these factors is the initial work that is done on the project, such as the utility site-work, which takes place underground. 

“That’s what’s going to take place, is actually starting now and will take place for pretty much the next year.” said Hurston.

The surgical tower itself is an expensive endeavor for the UNC Health Care system.  

“To meet code requirements, it adds to the cost,” Hurston said. "So our total project budget is $290 million. That includes design, equipment, furniture, a bunch of incidental costs, as well as construction.”

Included in the building’s design are the efforts to remain sustainable.

"We did take steps to reduce power consumption,” McCabe said. “All lights are (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified); we have a complete energy model of the building to make sure that the air-conditioning systems are super efficient, so we’re not wasting energy.”

Energy conservation is important for the surgical tower due to its size. It will have seven levels and about 330,000 square feet of space, Hurston said. 

“The primary purpose of it is to replace 24 of our operating rooms," Hurston said. "Many of the operating rooms this facility will replace were designed for the most part in the 1940s and constructed and opened in the 50s. So these are replacement operating rooms, not additional ones.” 

The increase in room size will allow for newer and more advanced technology in the hospital, and ultimately, better care for patients. 

Once construction is complete, the current surgical hospital will not remain in operation. A decision has not yet been made as to what will be done with the building. 

“There are options that we’re considering,” Hurston said. “One would be to consolidate several of our procedure areas, and these are areas where cases or services are performed as a procedure, not as a surgery.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.